Some paths to the starting line are more pleasant than others.
Take my Tangier Island run. As a side trip to our Ocean City, Md., vacation, Col and I drove a little more than an hour to Crisfield and then soaked in the sun during a 90-minute boat ride to the Chesapeake Bay island with a population of about 500. It is part of Virginia’s Accomack County.
The mini-cruise on a gorgeous day was a leisurely start to the afternoon. I changed into my running gear on the boat, strolled to the island’s main road and headed south.
On Tangier, I ended up running through the more touristy part a couple of times to reach three miles. I should’ve taken a turn that would’ve brought me through a more residential area, but the road was so narrow I thought it was someone’s driveway. I passed on going down a road that leads to what is supposed to be a beautiful beach where I might have found arrowheads and other Native American artifacts because the only police officer on the island had innocently parked his car at the intersection.
There are about a dozen cars in the metropolis, with golf carts being the preferred method of transportation. There is no jail. There are limited medical facilities. Two doctors visit the island twice a week.
I saw a Maryland state police helicopter make a landing in response to a medical emergency that proved to be a false alarm. As I trotted by the airport, an 8-year-old local girl asked me, “Who’s sick?” “I don’t know,” I said. “Whatcha’ doing?” she asked. I too quickly answered, “Running and walking.” Right after, I wondered how she would have responded if I said, “I’m running across Virginia.”
Tangier is actually made up of a series of small islands divided by marshes and streams. The islands are connected by wooden bridges. There are no traffic lights, one school for K-12 with fewer than 10 students in each grade. Tourism and crabbing are its main industries. It is often referred to as the soft-shell crab capital of the world.
Before the Europeans arrived, it had been a summer retreat for Pocomoke Native Americans. It was first settled in 1686. During the War of 1812, the British used it as a staging area for battles in Baltimore, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. As many as 1,200 soldiers occupied the island.
Accomack County, first explored by an English expedition in 1603, is the largest county in the state when you include both the land (455 square miles) and water (855 square miles) area. It has a population of 32,000 and, along with Northampton County, makes up Virginia’s Eastern Shore, part of the Delmarva Peninsula.
25 runs down, 109 to go.
View Tangier in a larger map